Update: NHS IT programme software 'three times market price'

NHS trusts are paying three times the market price for systems under the failed National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to an MP on the Public Accounts Committee.

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NHS trusts are paying three times the market price for systems under the failed National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to an MP on the Public Accounts Committee.

While NPfIT was supposed to deliver complex but standardised systems at an affordable price, hospitals are spending much more with suppliers BT and CSC than by buying elsewhere, said Richard Bacon MP, an expert on the programme.

Bacon took the figures from written parliamentary answers, National Audit Office reports, and the suppliers' regulatory filings.

North Bristol NHS Trust deployment will see BT paid BT £29 million over seven years - £15.2million for the Cerner Millennium patient administration system roll out and an annual service charge of £2 million. This cost is being paid by the national Connecting for Health programme. In addition, North Bristol NHS Trust itself has a £3.9m implementation and training bill.

Bacon said this was "more than three times" the price paid by University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust, which did so outside the programme for a reported £8.2 million. It seems likely that North Bristol Trust has also paid heavilly for implementation. "Typical internal Trust costs of deploying of a non-NPfIT system, excluding the cost of the system itself but including training, project management and additional corporate reporting tools, can be about £2million," the MP noted.

Morecambe Bay NHS trust, served by CSC, was also overpaying. It has spent £6.2 million on the programme including the iSoft Lorenzo equivalent patient system.

Typical internal trust costs of deploying of a non-NPfIT system, excluding the cost of the system itself but including training, project management and additional corporate reporting tools, Bacon said, "can be about £2 million".

The news comes as it emerged that CSC is expecting to be paid £2 billion more for its work on the programme, costing each UK income taxpayer £77. CSC has been so heavily criticised for its performance that government committees have advised ministers to consider not giving it any more public sector contracts.

CSC has also insisted the government is unable to legally cancel its contract at will.

The Department of Health, the Cabinet Office and CSC have not provided any justification for the expenditure.

The Department of Health said, however, that it was "dismantling" the programme, "restoring local control over decision-making and enabling greater choice for NHS organisations". This would also serve the needs of doctors and patients, it said.

BT insisted its prices were "independently verified" and represented "value for money".

Bacon, a vocal critic of the programme, said it was time the government ensured trusts are fully aware of the ongoing costs of NPfIT implementations and associated services.

He added that CSC should not be given a contract that commits to a specific number of systems, "so that trusts will not be put under pressure" to buy software in order to fulfil the supplier agreements.